Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

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RATING: 4/5

SYNOPSIS: During the 1800s in England, two gentleman work together to bring magic back to England, one with the purpose of only a select few learning the craft under controlled circumstances and the other with the purpose of restoring magic to everyone and everything while working against the enchantments of a particularly malevolent fairy king.

 

The first few chapters really suck you right into the story, but once Mr. Norrell goes to London things get really slow. The problem with starting off with Mr. Norrell is that he is a homebody who would rather stay at home and read a book instead of actively adventure which does not bode well for keeping people interested. Unfortunately Mr. Norrell is the first real magician to be introduced so we are stuck with him until Jonathan Strange comes into the picture. Luckily once we have Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell together things get really interesting and also many plot threads start to crop up leaving you dazed and in a whirlwind of mystery. One of the fun parts about this book are the little footnotes that explain the magical history of England (although at times it made the story confusing as to whether this was a book of history or just a narrative of fiction but it was still amusing none the less). What really makes this novel work is that there is such a large cast of characters that before you have time to get bored with one story line, you are switched to a different one and then put back into the one that you left. Also each character has such a strong and distinct vision of what he or she thinks magic should be and what magic should do that it creates fascinating dynamics amongst them and Jonathan Strange or Mr. Norrell. I think the only weakness (which the TV mini series fixes) is that Mr. Segundus, Arabella Strange, and Lady Pole are tragically neglected. All three of these characters are in interesting situations and I wished that we could have seen more of their story lines within the context of the novel, but what bits were discussed I enjoyed a lot. I wouldn’t recommend this book if you are looking for a very quick enjoyable read, this is a book that is meant to be savored and it is one that requires your undivided attention. The writing style is reminiscent of Jane Austen, so if you love her books and you love fantasy then you will take pleasure in this novel!

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